Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spotting the fakes

On Saturday mornings, I used to ride around in the car with my Dad while he ran errands here and there. He would always smile and wave at people while he drove. He seemed so eagerly excited and friendly, that I just had to ask, "Who was that?"

"Nobody, I know," he'd say. Just being friendly. And he was. Sincerely, I think my Dad felt happy to be part of a small village, where people took the time to smile and wave.

Heather's post on manners has had me thinking all week. While bad manners are awful, fake niceness is worse. Those fake smiles are the messy things of life that I like to shake off me like a dog shakes off water when he jumps out of a lake. Now that I live in a bigger Midwest town, I'm becoming especially adept at spotting the fakes. I'm sure that the "fake nice people" existed in my small town, but it was easier to ferret out sincerity when there were less people to study.

The underlying issue I have with "the fakes," is not in the difficulty in spotting them, but rather, why? Why bother to go out of your way to make someone feel important, cared for, and well-liked, if you don't really mean it? Who, in this short life, has time for that? And more importantly, why not care? Who are you not to care, I want to ask.

There's a neat little test you can take over at BBC Science that rates your ability to spot a fake smile. I got 11 out of 20 right. Out of the 9 I missed, I thought 7 of them were fake smiles, when they were genuinely real.

Without giving away the clues of what to look for, I'll just say that fake smiles are created consciously by the brain, engaging specific muscles. Genuine smiles are created by the unconscious part of the brain, in a spontaneous, effortless movement that engages a different set of muscles. You don't even know you're doing it. It just happens.

Today, my wish for you is that your days be filled with so much joy that you find yourself unconsciously smiling, without an ounce of effort on your part. As Moms, we need much of our day to be effortless anyway.

If you take the test, post your scores! It would be fun to compare.


Heather said...

That was an interesting quiz! I got 13 out of 20.

Anonymous said...

10 out of 20. Or am I faking it?!?

::::wifemothermaniac:::: said...

Wow, I got 17 out of 20 right, almost 18 but I thought the asian girl might just be less expressive because of my cultural assumptions I guess. Perhaps my street smarts have come in more useful than I woulda known, though it must be easier to just assume the best of everyone.

Kirsetin said...

Oooh, Susie, I am not a good fake-smile spotter. Only 12 out of 20; kind of depressing when you think about it. Am I wandering around getting fooled all of the time?!

angi said...

but I was SURE I had them all figured out :)